Suffering with Job
Why do the Righteous Suffer?
The advantage that one who reads the story of Job has over Job is that the Bible tells us what is going on behind the scenes; Job did not know what was happening just as those who are suffering now do not know why they are suffering. John Walvoord writes similarly in The Bible Knowledge Commentary,
“Many individuals can identify with Job, whose distresses were agonizingly prolonged and so seemingly unfair... For anyone, suffering is hard to comprehend, but especially so when it strikes the undeserving. When pain does not seem to be punishment for wrongdoing, it is puzzling. The Book of Job addresses the mystery of unmerited misery, showing that in adversity God may have other purposes besides retribution for wrongdoing.”
There are devastating things that will happen to unbelievers and believers alike that they will not be able to understand. The book of Job allows all to be able to see some of how God is working and a little of why, but it is not meant to completely answer the mystery of why God allows suffering.
I. Suffering and its causes
A. Suffering is ultimately a result of the curse and sin
The fall of Adam and Eve was the beginning of suffering in this present world. The curse is found in Genesis 3:15-19 when God places a curse upon humanity. Paul writes in Romans 5:12, “Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned.” As a result of Adam and Eve’s sin all men are guilty sinners and under the judgment of God as Romans 6:23 says. All men are therefore doomed to future suffering in hell for eternity which makes any suffering of this world pale in comparison. (Matthew 13:42) Jesus suffered the ultimate sacrifice that all may be saved (John 3:16).
The tragic suffering that is found in this world according to Dr. Harry Nonnemacher in
his class on Job both moral evil (a result of man’s choices example murder) and natural evil (suffering due to naturally occurring circumstances like tornadoes, typhoons) is a result either directly or indirectly of sin and the curse. The third type of evil Dr. Nonnemacher called maximum evil which is innocent or righteous suffering this is suffering that comes upon those who are seemingly undeserving of God’s wrath. As was previously stated all evil is allowed by God.
B. Suffering can be the result of personal sin.
Suffering can be the direct result of sin in a person’s life. In Acts 5:5 one finds an example of this when, “And Ananias hearing these words fell down, and gave up the ghost: and great fear came on all them that heard these things.” Ananias and Sapphira were lying to the Holy Spirit about the money they were giving the church, and they were both separately struck dead. This is a very severe case, but it is nevertheless a possibility that one’s suffering can be a result of personal sin. Clearly Job’s friends felt that this was the reason that Job was suffering as Eliphaz says in Job 15:20, “The wicked man travaileth with pain all his days.” Eliphaz was implying that Job was that wicked man and that was why he was suffering. Arthur Peake addresses this in The Problem of Suffering in the Old Testament, “The teaching of his [Job’s] day regarded great misfortune as a sign of great sin, and an evidence of the anger of God.”[brackets mine] Because of the context of having the whole story one can know that Job’s suffering was not the result of his being a wicked man. Therefore one can conclude that one’s suffering may or may not be the result of sin that is between each person and Almighty God.
C. Suffering is allowed by God.
Nothing happens in this world without the permission of an almighty, sovereign God. According to Francis Anderson in Job An Introduction and Commentary, “Throughout the Old Testament the Lord is represented as the Creator and Ruler of the universe, which is inhabited by a numerous community of beings, its ‘host’.” God’s rule over the universe is unfathomable as Job discovers in the end of the book.
The book of Job gives a brief glimpse at the throne room of God and a peak at the inner workings of heaven. In Job chapter one and two Satan and the angels come before God at a specific time to report on their deeds, and before Satan can attack Job he must first get permission from God. Satan would like to think that this was completely his brilliant plan. But as is noted in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary written by Elmer, “On the contrary, God suggested Job to the Accuser (1:8; 2:3) in the first place. All Job's suffering was part of the divine purpose, as God says in 38:2.” Job recognizes this when he says in Job 2:10b, “What? shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil? In all this did not Job sin with his lips.” Job was stating that it is God’s sovereign right to do with His creation as He sees fit.
This is a perfect example of God’s control on every aspect of one’s life. Satan is given permission twice to attack Job, but both times God limits him. John Hartley expounds on this truth in The Book of Job saying, “The Satan functions as God’s servant, solely an instrument in the testing.” God is so great and powerful that He can use Satan to accomplish His purposes. God who is omniscient and sovereign knows exactly what is going on and is in control of the situation; therefore, one can trust Him. Comfort can be found in the fact that God is bigger than any suffering as Romans 11:33-36 says,
“O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out! For who hath known the mind of the Lord? or who hath been his counsellor? Or who hath first given to him, and it shall be recompensed unto him again? For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things: to whom be glory for ever. Amen.”
God says in Isaiah 55:8-9, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.” God’s ways are not always the way that one would choose, yet God can be trusted because He knows best. Job is a great example of this as Larry and Lawrence Richards in The Teachers Commentary point out, “God did not explain. Job was left without answers, to simply trust a God whose motives and purposes no human being can fully know.” Job never knew fully why these things happened, but he did know that he could trust God.
II. Suffering results ultimately in God’s glory
A. Suffering can be for the vindication of God
Job’s story is unique in that one knows what is going on behind the scenes in heaven. This allows one to understand what God was accomplishing by allowing Job’s suffering at least in what manner is revealed in scripture. The accusation of Satan is found in Job 1:11, “put forth thine hand now, and touch all that he hath, and he will curse thee to thy face.” Satan was basically accusing Job of serving God for the things that God had blessed Job with. God allowed Job’s suffering for God’s glory, and Job never did curse God. Job vindicated God in His confidence in Job.
B. Suffering can be for an unknown sovereign reason
Although one can see that part of the reason for Job’s suffering was that God might be vindicated; it is impossible that one might know all that God was accomplishing through Job’s trial. The Pulpit Commentary: Job by H. D. M. Spence-Jones states, “That the afflictions of Job had some other purpose than merely to respond to Satan’s appeal, none will deny; but what the purpose was is not stated in words.” It is the same thing with suffering today; one may not know until heaven why certain things happened.
C. Suffering can be used of God to work greatly
Truly it is wonderful when God takes a tragic situation and uses it bring glory to himself. No one would argue that the story of Job is anything less than tragic, but in the end God is vindicated by Job’s faith. In the end of the book 42:2 Job says, “I know that thou canst do every thing, and that no thought can be withholden from thee.” Here Hartley explains in his commentary on Job, “Job’s concession means that he believers that everything occurring on earth takes place within the framework of the divine wisdom.” This is something that Job struggles with throughout the book after the arrival of his friends in chapter two, and in the end he recognizes what he knew at the beginning which was God knows exactly what he is doing. There are other examples in the Old Testament of God using tragic situations (suffering) to work His ultimate plan. The children of Israel and their bondage is a good example. Another more recent example is those who were martyred for the cause of Christ which has historically spawned great growth in the church. As Tertullian once said, “The blood of the martyr is the seed of the church.” God is so awesome He can use a bad situation to produce amazing masterpieces in His divine plan.
D. Suffering can be for the purpose of restoration
Suffering can also be brought into the life of an individual to turn them to God. This is the chastisement of God. Just as a parent punishes a child for misbehaving, so God must at times punish his children to bring them into fellowship with himself. Hebrews 12: 5-8 explains,
“And ye have forgotten the exhortation which speaketh unto you as unto children, My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him: For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth. If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not? But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons.”
Christians can take comfort in the chastening of the Lord. Job and his friends’ challenge was that they felt Job’s suffering was a result of chastisement from God for sin, but the problem arose in that Job swore to his innocence. Their difficulty was in their limiting of God by their narrow theology. Spence-Jones in The Pulpit Commentary states, “The very suffering is a sign of God’s present care. It is a process by means of which he is bettering his child.” God will use suffering to work his ultimate plan.
III. The proper response to suffering
Job’s first response to his situation was not the question why do the righteous suffer; but rather, as Job 1:20-22 says, “Then Job arose, and rent his mantle, and shaved his head, and fell down upon the ground, and worshipped, And said, Naked came I out of my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return thither: the LORD gave, and the LORD hath taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD. In all this Job sinned not, nor charged God foolishly.” This was after the devastating loss of all his children and all his possessions. It is important to remember that was ten children and that Job was the wealthiest man in the East. Yet in the midst of his terrible suffering Job was able to worship God. This is how one should respond to the suffering God allows in one’s life.
A. Recognize God’s ownership of all
Job recognized that everything he had was merely a gift from God, and He can take them back because they belong to Him. As expressed by Moses in Deuteronomy 10:14, “Behold, the heaven and the heaven of heavens is the LORD’S thy God, the earth also, with all that therein is.” That covers everything; therefore, Job was correct in relinquishing his “right” to his earthly possessions. This much easier to do in theory than in practice, but nevertheless it should be done.
B. Respond by blessing God
Job blesses God in the midst of his trials. Walvoord remarks, “Job praised the Lord. It is truly remarkable that Job followed adversity with adoration, woe with worship.” It is important to note that this was not the first thing Job did. As Warren Wiersbe notes in Be Patient, “He expressed his grief in a manner normal for that day, for God expects us to be human (1 Thes. 4:13). After all, even Jesus wept (John 11:35)” One is supposed to grieve over their losses, but never to lose sight of God’s goodness. As St. Augustine so precisely said, “Trust the past to the mercy of God, the present to His love, and the future to His providence.”
Job’s second trial was more personal than the first being struck by horrendous boil all over his body. Still he remained steadfast in the faith such as the believer should respond. As The Wycliffe Bible Commentary states, “A man must continue to fear God even when his world flies apart and life strands him, like Job, in stunned bewilderment on the refuse heap.” This is when a man’s faith is thoroughly tested. Job is a great example of a righteous man suffering, and how to respond. Yet it is important to note that while Job was not perfect; Jesus was. As Larry and Lawrence in The Teachers Commentary have noted, “Peter gives us the ultimate example of unjust suffering. He points out that Jesus suffered ‘the righteous for [hyper, lit. ‘on account of’] the unrighteous’ (1 Peter 3:18).” The suffering that Jesus went through was for all the sins of the world, and he had never even committed a sin. Jesus is the perfect example.
C. Continue to trust in God
Even though Job responds properly God does not immediately end his trial. After a period of time Job begins to lose his trust in God mainly as a result of not being able to understand why these things were happening to him. This is because Job began taking his eyes off of God and focusing on the misery and suffering surrounding him. As Smick points out, “Job has learned that man by himself cannot deduce the reason why anyone suffers.” Job realizes in the end that he does not have to have all the answers, nor does God have to answer him. In Job 42:1-6 Job responds to God,
“Then Job answered the LORD, and said, I know that thou canst do every thing, and that no thought can be withholden from thee. Who is he that hideth counsel without knowledge? therefore have I uttered that I understood not; things too wonderful for me, which I knew not. Hear, I beseech thee, and I will speak: I will demand of thee, and declare thou unto me. I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear: but now mine eye seeth thee. Wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes.”
Job failed to respond properly through his entire trial, but that does not have to be the case with the believer today. It is interesting to note as is done by Peake that, “The spirit escaped its difficulties by soaring above them. If we know God, no other knowledge matters.” God has revealed to us in I Corinthians 10:13, “There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.” God may allow suffering into the life of the believer, but one can rest assured that it will not be more than he can handle. As Wiersbe says, “If God doesn’t see fit to remove our burdens, He always gives strength to bear them—and a song to sing while doing it!”
John F. Walvoord, Roy B. Zuck and Dallas Theological Seminary, The Bible Knowledge Commentary : an Exposition of the Scriptures (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1983-c1985), 1:715.
 Dr. Harry Nonnemacher, Job BI 676 class lecture, Pensacola Theological Seminary Summer 2008
 Arthur S. Peake, The Problem of Suffering in the Old Testament, London: Primitive Methodist Publishing House, 1904, 85
 Francis I. Anderson, Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries Job an Introduction and Commentary, ed. D. J. Wiseman, Downers Grove, Ill.: Tyndale Press, 1976, 81
 Elmer B. Smick, “3. Satan's further accusations (2:1-6)” In The Expositor's Bible Commentary: Volume 4, Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1988, 884
 John E. Hartley, The New International Commentary on the Old Testament The Book of Job, Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1988, 74
Larry Richards and Lawrence O. Richards, The Teacher's Commentary, Includes Index. (Wheaton, Ill.: Victor Books, 1987), 1033.
The Pulpit Commentary: Job, ed. H. D. M. Spence-Jones (Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 2004), 62.
 Hartley, The Book of Job, 534
The Pulpit Commentary: Job, ed. H. D. M. Spence-Jones (Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 2004), 547.
John F. Walvoord, Roy B. Zuck and Dallas Theological Seminary, The Bible knowledge commentary : an exposition of the scriptures (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1983-c1985), 1:721.
Warren W. Wiersbe, Be Patient, An Old Testament study. (Wheaton, Ill.: Victor Books, 1996, c1991), Job 1:20.
Warren W. Wiersbe, Be Patient, An Old Testament study. (Wheaton, Ill.: Victor Books, 1996, c1991), Job 1:1.
 Meredith Kline, The Wycliffe Bible Commentary ed. by Charles Pfeiffer, Chicago: Moody Press, 1962, 462
Larry Richards and Lawrence O. Richards, The Teacher's Commentary, Includes Index. (Wheaton, Ill.: Victor Books, 1987), 1034.
 Smick, Expositors, 1056
 Peake, The Problem of Suffering in the Old Testament, 100
Warren W. Wiersbe, Be Patient, An Old Testament study. (Wheaton, Ill.: Victor Books, 1996, c1991), Job 34:1.